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Maryland Do Not Resuscitate Form (DNR) Versus a Living Will September 21st, 2016

The Maryland Do Not Resuscitate Form allows you to work with your physician to make certain advance medical directives known. If you choose not to be resuscitated when your breathing stops or becomes labored, a DNR will order emergency or medical personnel to only provide care intended to keep you comfortable and promote your dignity, rather than to prolong your life.

The Maryland Do Not Resuscitate Form is a useful document. But does it replace a living will? Absolutely not. Here’s why:

      1. An Maryland Do Not Resuscitate Form only reflects your wishes about receiving (or not receiving) cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). While this can include such things as chest compressions, electrical shocks and insertion of a breathing tube, it does not address additional life-prolonging procedures like continued life support. If you declare that you do not want to be resuscitated on a DNR, you will not receive CPR if you stop breathing, even if your heart is still beating. What a living will can do that a DNR does not, is to allow CPR in such cases but then also allow you to declare that you would not want to remain on life support indefinitely.

2. A DNR is used to address current health conditions that you are facing, while a living will can be created at any time, even when you are perfectly healthy. (Think of a living will as a more “advance” advance directive than a DNR.) Because of this, a living will can be overridden in a few areas, more so than an Maryland Do Not Resuscitate Form can be. In Maryland, for instance, a pregnant patient’s declaration against life-prolonging procedures cannot be honored if it is possible that, with the continued application of death-delaying procedures, the fetus could develop to the point of live birth. Also, a living will does not apply if you have an irreversible condition that would not be considered terminal.

3. A DNR can only be created with the help of a physician. It is only at your physician’s discretion that an Maryland Do Not Resuscitate Form can be ordered. You can choose to create a living will, on the other hand, on your own – no physician required.

Now that we’ve pointed out the differences, here’s how the two documents can work together:

A living will can be put in place immediately (even while you’re healthy) to state your wishes in an emergency. It can be used to direct a physician to create a DNR for you (per your wishes stated in the living will) if you are unable to do so on your own (if the life-threatening condition was not anticipated). Additionally, don’t forget about the healthcare power of attorney. This document is a good companion to both the living will and DNR. It allows you to name a healthcare agent (a loved one) who could be given the right to decide whether a DNR should be created on your behalf.

For more on the Maryland Do Not Resuscitate Form (DNR), visit the Maryland Department of Health’s Advance Directives page. An actual DNR form can be requested through your physician. For more on living wills and healthcare power of attorney documents, which you can complete without a physician’s assistance, read about our Maryland Medical Directives Pack.

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